Sweden helps Vietnamese journalists to turn to social media

Social networking sites are an enriching source of information and the media should take full advantage of this, says Luu Vu Hai, a senior official with the Ministry of Information and Communications.

“Journalist are no longer exclusively providing and distributing information. Social networking sites have become an environment where diversified information is rapidly disseminated and there is a lot of interaction between information providers and receivers,” Hai said at a seminar on ‘Social network and media’ organised jointly by the ministry and the Swedish Embassy.

Hai, the head of the ministry’s Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Department, told a seminar in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue last Friday that social networks have forced media organisations to change from what used to be a one-way communication to one that interacted with their audience.

Many ‘hot’ issues on the social network have been explored and used by professional journalists to publish on the mainstream media, meeting the audience’s demand for that kind of information. It has, therefore, become a source of input information for the media, which can also use the social network to disseminate their own, more orthodox information and reach out to a wider audience, Hai said.

Statistics compiled by the ministry show 130 social networking sites have so far been given permission to provide their services.

The leading Vietnamese social networking site, ZingMe has 5.1 million accounts. Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site, has 2.9 million Vietnamese users and Yume, another local social site, has a similar number.

Around 80 per cent of young Vietnamese people have accounts on social networking sites. Studies show that 40 per cent of social network users who are under 18 years of age, have one account each, 25 per cent have two accounts and 13 per cent have more than three on different sites.

The owner of ZingMe, Le Hong Minh, told the seminar that using a social network was an irresistible trend among young people and this has posed challenges to the traditional media.

The director of Swedish Institute for Further Education of Journalists (FOJO), Annelie Ewers, said journalists should spearhead the use of social networks, not prevent their development. She said this approach would help social networks and professional journalism coexist, provide verification for each other’s information, protect the truth and ensure balance and diversity of information.

The social network has become an essential part of the society, attracting the participation of many people while providing useful tools of information and meeting the needs of people’s communication, experts said at the seminar.

However, media outlets have not taken advantage of social networks as a source of information while the latter have been making good use of the media, they said.

Ewers said the social network has been benefiting from the rapid development of technology and the media has the responsibility to provide social networking sites with credible information.

The information on networking sites was diversified and fast but it could be inaccurate, said Ewers, urging journalists to verify the information they use to protect the truth and at the same time take responsibility to get the citizens involved in the news making and even investigating process.

The seminar, which also discussed the tendency of multimedia practices and the development towards social networks in the near future, would serve as a start to building up of the relationship and interaction between social networks and traditional media, said Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Do Quy Doan.

Such discussions would help initiate proper management of social networks which, apart from providing useful news, can also disseminate harmful information, he said.

Doan asked journalists to use and verify the information from the social networks, and “not be afraid of them.”

He said the ministry would continue to study the relationship between social networks and media to ensure the best benefit for users. Results from such studies would provide the basis for the Government’s social network management policies, he added.

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